The sound of sporadic b-ball playing easily pushed its way through the din of children’s chatter Thursday at Roosevelt’s Police Activity League facility, named after basketball great Julius Erving, one of the community’s own, when it was dedicated in 1995.
At one point, a Nassau County work crew walked into the facility’s lobby, ladder at the ready, to begin removing the facility’s carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers. They turned back empty-handed, however, after Douglas Mayers, a Roosevelt resident and parks employee assigned to the center, gestured toward the noisy gym.
“We’ll come back tomorrow,” one of the men said.
On Friday, the children enrolled in the Rising Stars child-care program were at play again. This time, however, in a basement room of a church down the street.
The PAL building was closed.
And, although programs are being relocated to nearby churches and other facilities, no one interviewed last week knew when the building might be open again.
For years, the Nassau Police Activity League had been supporting a subsidiary, the Roosevelt PAL unit, to keep the place open. But after sinking $300,000 into the building, Nassau PAL — an organization independent of the county’s police department — determined it could subsidize no more.
And so, it notified Rising Stars and the Roosevelt unit, that, come July 1, it would not cover the building’s insurance payment.
Hempstead Town owns the building, which was transferred to it years ago by Nassau County. Hempstead at one point, in an attempt to help keep the facility open, officials said, offered to give it back to Nassau — which, in turn, was to have leased it to a community group.
But those negotiations went nowhere.
Still, when the building nearly closed because of financial problems three years ago, Nassau stepped up — via a memorandum of understanding between it, the town and the Roosevelt PAL unit, officials said — to help keep things going.
And the county plans to come through again this time around — albeit on a limited basis — by finding funding to pay the building’s insurance through the end of August.
“We are doing this for the children of Roosevelt,” acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said Friday, noting that there had been scuttled efforts that might have resolved the issue earlier. For now, however, the fate of the building — which has hosted everything from sports events to birthday and graduation celebrations to family reunions — remains in limbo.
Todd Parrish, a former PAL president who heads the Rising Stars program, said he’s already paid rent at the church, where a camp for up to 85 local children begins on Tuesday.
“I had to make a move,” he said. “Nobody was telling anybody anything.”
Even if the building reopens, he said, it’s too late to move his program back there — although having access to the gym for sports and arts and crafts on rainy days could be an option.
Meanwhile, Mayers, who heads the Roosevelt NAACP, said he’d not heard from the county or anyone else on whether he would continue to work in the building. Charlie H. Robbins, commander of American Legion Post 1957 in Roosevelt — which has put forth a proposal to purchase, operate or manage the building — expressed frustration that he’d heard nothing either.
“I feel like I’m here and the veterans are here, and I’m wanting to keep this open and for the children,” he said. “I’m here and I’m wondering, where’s everybody else?”`